10-year-old proposes bill to strengthen domestic violence prosecution, gets lawmakers’ backing
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A bipartisan bill proposed in the South Carolina State House aims to better hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable.
S. 929 would permit more evidence to be allowed in court in domestic violence cases, specifically regarding the defendants’ past domestic violence violations, which a South Carolina survivor advocacy organization believes would prevent future violence from repeat abusers.
“Abuse will continue as long as those perpetrators think they can get away with it,” Sistercare Executive Director Ann Kita said.
The pre-filed Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R – Lexington, and Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D – Richland. Across the State House hall, Rep. Rita Allison, R – Spartanburg, plans to file the same bill in the House of Representatives when lawmakers return to Columbia for their regular legislative session in January.
Lawmakers frequently receive requests and calls from people, such as lobbyists and their constituents, who want them to fight for new legislation at the State House.
But in this case, that request came from a younger South Carolinian: 10-year-old SummerBelle Fair.
“My mom used to be a domestic violence prosecutor, so I copied Alaska’s bill and wrote my bill, and I sent it to Rep. Allison, and she led us to Sen. Shealy,” she said.
SummerBelle is the current titleholder of Young Miss Columbia and will compete in July for Little Miss South Carolina.
As part of the pageant, she has to complete a service project, so SummerBelle decided to propose the bill and, with her mom’s assistance, ask lawmakers for their support in Columbia to pass it into law.
“I was trying to reach the most amount of people and change the world,” she said.
Before getting to that point, SummerBelle brainstormed ideas with her mom, Mardi.
“Years ago, when I used to prosecute domestic violence, it would always bother me that a lot of the real abusers got away,” Mardi said. “And this is one law, that if you want to take it up and fight for it, it would be great, and so she said she was game.”
Mardi said SummerBelle did the research, finding the law from Alaska on which she based her version for South Carolina.
“What we were hoping this law would do is would help catch those repeat offenders that are slipping through the cracks,” Mardi said.
S. 929, which Shealy called “a great bill,” was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
“I’ve always been an advocate against domestic violence. It’s always been something I’ve supported,” Shealy said. “We’re really proud of her and glad she wanted to take interest in what’s happening in the state, and so I think she’s done a good job.”
“I think it has a great opportunity to help end criminal domestic violence in our state,” Allison added.
With her first bill filed, SummerBelle doesn’t have designs on getting into politics — for now.
Instead, she wants to become a golfer, singer, or pet store owner.
Until then, she will be pushing for her bill to become law and preparing for her next pageant on a platform of spreading joy — something her mom said she has been doing since the day she was born.
“I encourage anyone else in my generation too, if they want to start changing the world, they should act now,” SummerBelle said.
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